But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13b-14 ESV
“It is necessary to let our roots bless us,” writes Ronald Rolheiser in his book The Holy Longing. He continues with this, “This is true not only if those roots were healthy but even if they were negative or positively abusive. One of the greatest anthropological imperatives, innate in human nature, is that we eventually must make peace with the family.”
If our roots are going to bless us then we need to get around to remembering them. Not only remembering them – but dealing with them – doing the hard work of finding out who and what shaped us. Who we are now is because of who raised us, taught us, loved us, and hurt us. Our parents and siblings and childhood friends. Aunts and uncles and cousins. Our teachers and preachers or strangers and lovers. All of them had, and some still have, a part in the story of our lives.
The good stories and the hard ones. The ones where God pulled us from the miry pit and the ones where He set our feet upon the rock. The stories where we turned away from Him to do our own thing…….and the ones where He welcomed us back into His loving arms. We have stories that are hard to hear and ones that make us wonder.
For or Against
So we work at remembering our stories to find out who we are and why. Then the tragic parts, the ones that still cause deep pain can be dealt with, talked about, and eventually healed. That won’t mean all the pain will go away, but it won’t have as much power. Because we either make our worst memories work for us or they’re going to work against us.
When we read Paul’s words in Philippians 3:13 about “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” don’t think Paul is telling us to forget our past. More than any other the New Testament writer, Paul frequently mentions his past in his letters. Paul means for us to be focused on God and His work….the work we are given to do……and not be distracted by what is behind us because while we are shaped by our past, we are not defined by it. God was there with us…..in our past…..in our pain……in our regrets and there’s nothing He can’t redeem, heal, and use for His purposes.